Rights group condemns ‘coordinated crackdown’ against anti-war activists as tensions rise in Rakhine

The government must immediately release 15 activists arrested over the past month for opposing the war in Rakhine state, a leading advocacy group has said. 

Fortify Rights said in a statement on Monday that the activists, who are facing multiple charges for distributing anti-war materials in cities around the country, were being targeted as part of a “coordinated crackdown”.

“There is a coordinated crackdown against peaceful protesters unfolding right now,” said the group’s regional director, Ismail Wolff. “The crackdown is aimed at incapacitating and silencing human rights defenders and student activists.” 

“The charges should be dropped, and the Myanmar Government should free all political prisoners immediately,” he added.

The crackdown began on September 11, a day after protesters began distributing leaflets and putting up posters with slogans such as “Oppose murderous fascism” and “Dictatorships must fail” around Mandalay.

Despite efforts by the authorities to stamp out the protests, they continued well into October in a number of cities, including Yangon, Mandalay, Monywa, Meiktila, Pakokku, Magwe, and Sittwe.

Most of the detained activists are members of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU), a group that has a long history of resisting successive military regimes in Myanmar.

Four members of the group have already received prison sentences for their activities and are being held at Obo Prison in Mandalay region, along with at least four other activists.

ABFSU members Kyaw Thiha Ye Kyaw, 24, and Soe Hla Naing, 23, were sentenced earlier this month to five years in prison for their part in the protests, and are scheduled to face further charges later this week, according to Fortify Rights.

At least nine of the other detained protesters are also expected to appear before a court in Mandalay on Thursday to face a variety of charges under Myanmar’s Penal Code and Peaceful Assembly Law.

The country’s Natural Disaster Management Law, which applies to restrictions that have been put in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19, has also been invoked in a number of cases involving protests.

In its statement, Fortify Rights noted that the government was holding its sixth Human Rights Dialogue with the EU at the same time as it was cracking down on students.

In a joint press release, the two sides made no mention of the arrests, but referred to conflicts in Rakhine state and other parts of the country where fighting has resulted in hundreds of civilian casualties and mass displacement.  

The ongoing conflict between Myanmar’s military and the Arakan Army (AA) in northern Rakhine state and southern Chin state has become a major political flashpoint in the past year.

Last week, three candidates of the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) were abducted while campaigning in Rakhine state’s Taungup township.


Related Articles

Back to top button